Judging from contours on the surface ice, and preliminary radar scans of the underlying terrain, an international team of geologists believes it may have discovered a network of canyons stretching from the center of the East Antarctic ice sheet all the way to the northeastern coast. At over 600 miles long, the network is estimated to be two times longer than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and some 140 miles longer than Greenland’s Grand Canyon, discovered beneath the ice sheet there in 2013. The researchers will present the final results of their imaging study later this year, at which point they will have hopefully have come up with a better name than Antarctica’s Grand Canyon.
Subglacial canyons are a cause for some concern in Antarctica, as the prospect of relatively warm sea water eroding the massive Totten glacier from below has led scientists to question whether current sea level modeling greatly underestimates the pace at which global warming is destabilizing the South Pole.
Dr. Stewart Jamieson said in a statement, “If we can gain better knowledge of the buried landscape we will be better equipped to understand how the ice sheet responds to changes in climate.” Alternatively, if we just wait a few hundred years, scientists will be able to walk up to the canyon and see for themselves. Perhaps by then they’ll be selling t-shirts.